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Keyword: astronomy

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  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Light Pillars over Alaska

    02/07/2016 9:21:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 21 replies
    NASA ^ | February 08, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's happening behind those houses? Pictured here are not auroras but nearby light pillars, a nearby phenomenon that can appear as a distant one. In most places on Earth, a lucky viewer can see a Sun-pillar, a column of light appearing to extend up from the Sun caused by flat fluttering ice-crystals reflecting sunlight from the upper atmosphere. Usually these ice crystals evaporate before reaching the ground. During freezing temperatures, however, flat fluttering ice crystals may form near the ground in a form of light snow, sometimes known as a crystal fog. These ice crystals may then reflect ground...
  • Pluto’s Mysterious, Floating Hills

    02/05/2016 7:38:13 PM PST · by MtnClimber · 22 replies
    NASA ^ | 4 Feb, 2016 | NASA
    The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear to carry an intriguing cargo: numerous, isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto's surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASA's New Horizons mission. The hills, which are in the vast ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum within Pluto's 'heart,' are likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum's western border. They are yet another example of Pluto's fascinating and abundant geological activity. Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Advanced LIGO: Gravitational Wave Detectors Upgraded

    02/07/2016 10:18:53 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 30 replies
    NASA ^ | February 07, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Accelerate a charge and you'll get electromagnetic radiation: light. But accelerate any mass and you'll get gravitational radiation. Light is seen all the time, but, so far, a confirmed direct detection of gravitational radiation has been elusive. When absorbed, gravitational waves create a tiny symmetric jiggle similar to squashing a rubber ball and letting go quickly. Separated detectors can be used to discern gravitational waves from everyday bumps. Powerful astronomical sources of gravitational radiation would coincidentally jiggle even detectors on opposite ends of the Earth. Pictured here are the four-kilometer-long arms of one such detector: the LIGO Hanford Observatory...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Five Planets at Castell de Burriac

    02/06/2016 7:12:45 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | February 06, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: February's five planet line-up stretches across a clear sky in this predawn scene. A hilltop Castell de Burriac looms in the foreground, overlooking the town of Cabrera de Mar near Barcelona, Spain, planet Earth. The mosaicked, panoramic image looks south. It merges three different exposure times to record a bright Last Quarter Moon, planets, seaside city lights, and dark castle ruins. Seen on February 1st the Moon was near Mars on the sky. But this week early morning risers have watched it move on, passing near Saturn and finally Venus and Mercury, sliding along near the ecliptic toward the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Massive Stars in NGC 6357

    02/05/2016 4:32:07 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | February 05, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Massive stars lie within NGC 6357, an expansive emission nebula complex some 6,500 light-years away toward the tail of the constellation Scorpius. In fact, positioned near center in this ground-based close-up of NGC 6357, star cluster Pismis 24 includes some of the most massive stars known in the galaxy, stars with nearly 100 times the mass of the Sun. The nebula's bright central region also contains dusty pillars of molecular gas, likely hiding massive protostars from the prying eyes of optical instruments. Intricate shapes in the nebula are carved as interstellar winds and energetic radiation from the young and...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Dwarf Planet Ceres

    02/04/2016 3:10:39 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 28 replies
    NASA ^ | February 04, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Solar System's main asteroid belt, with a diameter of about 950 kilometers (590 miles). Ceres is seen here in approximately true color, based on image data from the Dawn spacecraft recorded on May 4, 2015. On that date, Dawn's orbit stood 13,642 kilometers above the surface of the small world. Two of Ceres' famous mysterious bright spots at Oxo crater and Haulani crater are near center and center right of this view. Casting a telltale shadow at the bottom is Ceres' cone-shaped, lonely mountain Ahuna Mons. Presently some 385 kilometers...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Galaxy Wars: M81 versus M82

    02/02/2016 11:27:00 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | February 03, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In the lower left corner, surrounded by blue spiral arms, is spiral galaxy M81. In the upper right corner, marked by red gas and dust clouds, is irregular galaxy M82. This stunning vista shows these two mammoth galaxies locked in gravitational combat, as they have been for the past billion years. The gravity from each galaxy dramatically affects the other during each hundred million-year pass. Last go-round, M82's gravity likely raised density waves rippling around M81, resulting in the richness of M81's spiral arms. But M81 left M82 with violent star forming regions and colliding gas clouds so energetic...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet 67P from Spacecraft Rosetta

    02/02/2016 1:43:22 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | February 02, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Spacecraft Rosetta continues to circle and map Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Crossing the inner Solar System for ten years to reach the vicinity of the comet in 2014, the robotic spacecraft continues to image the unusual double-lobed comet nucleus. The featured image, taken one year ago, shows dust and gas escaping from the comet's nucleus. Although appearing bright here, the comet's surface reflects only about four percent of impinging visible light, making it as dark as coal. Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko spans about four kilometers in length and has a surface gravity so low that an astronaut could jump off of it. With...
  • Why Does George Washington Have Two Birthdays?

    02/01/2016 10:37:29 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 35 replies
    The FindingDulcinea Blog ^ | February 11, 2010 | Denis Cummings
    This Monday is the federal holiday Washington's Birthday, better known as Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February. If you want to know the actual birth date of George Washington, you will find two dates: Feb. 22, 1732, and Feb. 11, 1731. Both dates are correct. What accounts for the discrepancy? When Washington was born, Britain and its colonies were using the Julian calendar. Developed in first century B.C. under Julius Caesar, it had three too many leap days per 400-year period. The Catholic Church corrected the error in the 16th century by introducing a modified calendar (the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Find the Man in the Moon

    02/01/2016 8:28:44 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | February 01, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Have you ever seen the Man on the Moon? This common question plays on the ability of humans to see pareidolia -- imagining familiar icons where they don't actually exist. The textured surface of Earth's full Moon is home to numerous identifications of iconic objects, not only in modern western culture but in world folklore throughout history. Examples, typically dependent on the Moon's perceived orientation, include the Woman in the Moon and the Rabbit in the Moon. One facial outline commonly identified as the Man in the Moon starts by imagining the two dark circular areas -- lunar maria...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- MWC 922: The Red Square Nebula

    01/31/2016 8:52:34 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 21 replies
    NASA ^ | January 31, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be embedded in a nebula with just such a shape. The featured image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Five Planet Dawn [see my preemptive comment]

    01/30/2016 3:23:39 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 21 replies
    NASA ^ | January 30, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: As January closes and in the coming days of February, early morning risers can spot the five naked-eye planets before dawn. Though some might claim to see six planets, in this seaside panoramic view all five celestial wanderers were found above the horizon along with a bright waning gibbous Moon on January 27. Nearly aligned along the plane of the ecliptic, but not along a line with the Sun, the five planets are spread well over 100 degrees across the sky. Just arriving on the predawn scene, fleeting Mercury stands above the southeastern horizon in the golden light of...
  • Monstrous Cosmic Gas Cloud Set To Ignite The Milky Way

    01/29/2016 12:59:16 PM PST · by MtnClimber · 47 replies
    Fores ^ | 28 Jan, 2016 | Ethan Siegel
    There are hundreds of high-velocity gas clouds moving at hundreds of km/s through the outskirts of our galaxy, mostly in stable orbits that keep them out of the galactic plane. They're typically irregularly shaped, thousands of light years across, and contain many millions of times the mass of our Sun. However, one such cloud, known as the "Smith Cloud" (above), is very different from all the others. It's much more distant, and it's moving towards us incredibly rapidly: at about 310 km/s, or around 700,000 miles per hour. And when I say it's moving towards us, it's projected to collide...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Hidden Galaxy IC 342

    01/29/2016 1:47:02 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | January 29, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Similar in size to large, bright spiral galaxies in our neighborhood, IC 342 is a mere 10 million light-years distant in the long-necked, northern constellation Camelopardalis. A sprawling island universe, IC 342 would otherwise be a prominent galaxy in our night sky, but it is hidden from clear view and only glimpsed through the veil of stars, gas and dust clouds along the plane of our own Milky Way galaxy. Even though IC 342's light is dimmed by intervening cosmic clouds, this deep telescopic image traces the galaxy's obscuring dust, blue star clusters, and glowing pink star forming regions...
  • Babylonians Were Using Geometry Centuries Earlier Than Thought

    01/28/2016 2:56:35 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 35 replies
    smithsonian ^ | 01/28/2016 | Jesse Emspak
    Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin found the tablet while combing through the collections at the British Museum. The written record gives instructions for estimating the area under a curve by finding the area of trapezoids drawn underneath. Using those calculations, the tablet shows how to find the distance Jupiter has traveled in a given interval of time. Until now, this kind of use of trapezoids wasn't known to exist before the 14th century. ... By 400 B.C. Babylonian astronomers had worked out a coordinate system using the ecliptic, the region of the sky the sun and planets move...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Elliptical M60, Spiral NGC 4647

    01/28/2016 6:06:08 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | January 28, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Giant elliptical galaxy M60 and spiral galaxy NGC 4647 do look like an odd couple in this sharp cosmic portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope. But they are found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years distant, bright M60's simpler egg-like shape is created by its randomly swarming older stars, while NGC 4647's young blue stars, gas and dust are organized into winding arms rotating in a flattened disk. Spiral NGC 4647 is estimated to be more distant than M60, some 63...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- An Airglow Fan from Lake to Sky

    01/26/2016 9:37:28 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | January 27, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Why would the sky look like a giant fan? Airglow. The featured intermittent green glow appeared to rise from a lake through the arch of our Milky Way Galaxy, as captured last summer next to Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The unusual pattern was created by atmospheric gravity waves, ripples of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90 kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Candidate for the Biggest Boom Yet Seen

    01/26/2016 9:36:04 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | January 26, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: It is a candidate for the brightest and most powerful explosion ever seen -- what is it? The flaring spot of light was found by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASASSN) in June of last year and labelled ASASSN-15lh. Located about three billion light years distant, the source appears tremendously bright for anything so far away: roughly 200 times brighter than an average supernova, and temporarily 20 times brighter than all of the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy combined. Were light emitted by ASASSN-15lh at this rate in all directions at once, it would be the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Where Your Elements Came From

    01/26/2016 9:35:12 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 23 replies
    NASA ^ | January 25, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The hydrogen in your body, present in every molecule of water, came from the Big Bang. There are no other appreciable sources of hydrogen in the universe. The carbon in your body was made by nuclear fusion in the interior of stars, as was the oxygen. Much of the iron in your body was made during supernovas of stars that occurred long ago and far away. The gold in your jewelry was likely made from neutron stars during collisions that may have been visible as short-duration gamma-ray bursts. Elements like phosphorus and copper are present in our bodies in...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out

    01/24/2016 6:23:28 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | January 24, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In the center of star-forming region 30 Doradus lies a huge cluster containing some of the largest, hottest, and most massive stars known. These stars, known collectively as star cluster R136, were captured in the featured image in visible light by the Wide Field Camera 3 in 2009 peering through the Hubble Space Telescope. Gas and dust clouds in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, have been sculpted into elongated shapes by powerful winds and ultraviolet radiation from these hot cluster stars. The 30 Doradus Nebula lies within a neighboring galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Big Dipper, Deep Sky

    01/22/2016 10:26:00 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | January 23, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The Big Dipper is an easy to recognize, well-known asterism in northern skies, though many see the Plough or Wagon. Famous bright nebulae of the north can also be found along its familiar lines, highlighted in this carefully composed scene with telescopic insets framed in the wider-field skyview. All from Messier's catalog, M101 and M51 are cosmic pinwheel and whirlpool on the left, spiral galaxies far beyond the Milky Way. To the right, M108, a distant edge-on spiral galaxy is seen close to our galaxy's own owl-faced planetary nebula M97. Taken on January 16, the wider-field view seems to...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- International Space Station Transits Saturn

    01/22/2016 3:36:34 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | January 22, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: From low Earth orbit to the outer Solar System, this remarkable video frame composite follows the International Space Station's transit of Saturn. On January 15, the well-timed capture from a site near Dulmen, Germany required telescope and camera to be positioned along the predicted transit centerline, a path only 40 meters wide. That put the camera about 1,140 kilometers away from the space station during the transit and 1,600,000,000 kilometers away from Saturn. A video rate of 42 frames per second follows the orbital outpost moving quickly from lower right to upper left. The transit itself lasted about 0.02...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The View Toward M101

    01/21/2016 1:05:21 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | January 21, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Sweeping through northern skies, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) made its closest approach on January 17, passing about 6 light-minutes from our fair planet. Dust and ion tails clearly separated in this Earth-based view, the comet is also posed for a Messier moment, near the line-of-sight to M101, grand spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. A cosmic pinwheel at the lower left, M101 is nearly twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy, but some 270 thousand light-centuries away. Both galaxy and comet are relatively bright, easy targets for binocular-equipped skygazers. But Comet Catalina is now outbound from the inner...
  • Researchers find evidence of a real ninth planet

    01/20/2016 7:52:49 PM PST · by Utilizer · 31 replies
    Phys.org ^ | January 20, 2016 | Kimm Fesenmaier
    Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Stars and Globules in the Running Chicken Nebula

    01/20/2016 3:49:17 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 16 replies
    NASA ^ | January 20, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The eggs from this gigantic chicken may form into stars. The featured emission nebula, shown in scientifically assigned colors, is cataloged as IC 2944 but known as the Running Chicken Nebula for the shape of its greater appearance. Seen toward the top of the image are small, dark molecular clouds rich in obscuring cosmic dust. Called Thackeray's Globules for their discoverer, these "eggs" are potential sites for the gravitational condensation of new stars, although their fates are uncertain as they are also being rapidly eroded away by the intense radiation from nearby young stars. Together with patchy glowing gas...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Dark Sand Dune on Mars

    01/19/2016 1:31:48 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 25 replies
    NASA ^ | January 19, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What is that dark sand dune doing on Mars? NASA's robotic rover Curiosity has been studying it to find out, making this the first-ever up-close investigation of an active sane dune on another world. Named Namib Dune, the dark sand mound stands about 4 meters tall and, along with the other Bagnold Dunes, is located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp. The featured image was taken last month and horizontally compressed here for comprehensibility. Wind is causing the dune to advance about one meter a year across the light bedrock underneath, and wind-blown sand is visible on the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Proxima Centauri: The Closest Star

    01/19/2016 1:30:46 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | January 18, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Does the closest star to our Sun have planets? No one is sure -- but you can now follow frequent updates of a new search that is taking place during the first few months of this year. The closest star, Proxima Centauri, is the nearest member of the Alpha Centauri star system. Light takes only 4.24 years to reach us from Proxima Centauri. This small red star, captured in the center of the featured image by the Hubble Space Telescope, is so faint that it was only discovered in 1915 and is only visible through a telescope. Telescope-created X-shaped...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Galactic Center in Infrared

    01/17/2016 4:13:06 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | January 17, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The center of our Galaxy is a busy place. In visible light, much of the Galactic Center is obscured by opaque dust. In infrared light, however, dust glows more and obscures less, allowing nearly one million stars to be recorded in the featured photograph. The Galactic Center itself appears on the left and is located about 30,000 light years away towards the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius). The Galactic Plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the plane in which the Sun orbits, is identifiable by the dark diagonal dust lane. The absorbing dust grains are created in the atmospheres...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The View Toward M106

    01/16/2016 7:50:03 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 10 replies
    NASA ^ | January 16, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A big, bright, beautiful spiral, Messier 106 is at the center of this galaxy filled cosmic vista. The two degree wide telescopic field of view looks toward the well-trained constellation Canes Venatici, near the handle of the Big Dipper. Also known as NGC 4258, M106 is about 80,000 light-years across and 23.5 million light-years away, the largest member of the Canes II galaxy group. For a far away galaxy, the distance to M106 is well-known in part because it can be directly measured by tracking this galaxy's remarkable maser, or microwave laser emission. Very rare but naturally occuring, the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Wright Mons in Color

    01/16/2016 7:46:44 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 8 replies
    NASA ^ | January 15, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Informally named Wright Mons, a broad mountain about 150 kilometers across and 4 kilometers high with a wide, deep summit depression is featured in this inset image captured during the New Horizons flyby of Pluto in July 2015. Of course, broad mountains with summit craters are found elsewhere in the Solar System, like the large shield volcano Mauna Loa on planet Earth or giant Olympus Mons on Mars. New Horizons scientists note the striking similarity of Pluto's Wright Mons, and nearby Piccard Mons, to large shield volcanoes suggests the two could be giant cryovolcanoes that once erupted molten ice...
  • SCIENTISTS SPOT BRIGHTEST SUPERNOVA YET, OUTSHINES MILKY WAY

    01/15/2016 2:13:28 PM PST · by NYer · 26 replies
    AP ^ | January 15, 2016 | MARCIA DUNN
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Astronomers have discovered the brightest star explosion ever, a super supernova that easily outshines our entire Milky Way. An international team revealed "the most powerful supernova observed in human history" Thursday in the latest Science journal. The astronomers used a network of telescopes around the world to spot the record-breaking supernova last year.Super luminous supernovas - extra bright stellar explosions - are believed to be rare. The newly discovered supernova is especially rare: It is more than twice as luminous as any supernova observed to date, including the previous record-holders.At its peak intensity, it is...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Infrared Portrait of the Large Magellanic Cloud

    01/14/2016 3:59:50 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 2 replies
    NASA ^ | January 14, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Cosmic dust clouds ripple across this infrared portrait of our Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. In fact, the remarkable composite image from the Herschel Space Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope show that dust clouds fill this neighboring dwarf galaxy, much like dust along the plane of the Milky Way itself. The dust temperatures tend to trace star forming activity. Spitzer data in blue hues indicate warm dust heated by young stars. Herschel's instruments contributed the image data shown in red and green, revealing dust emission from cooler and intermediate regions where star formation is just...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Reflections on the 1970s

    01/13/2016 2:59:37 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 12 replies
    NASA ^ | January 13, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The California Nebula

    01/11/2016 11:57:19 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 27 replies
    NASA ^ | January 12, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's California doing in space? Drifting through the Orion Arm of the spiral Milky Way Galaxy, this cosmic cloud by chance echoes the outline of California on the west coast of the United States. Our own Sun also lies within the Milky Way's Orion Arm, only about 1,500 light-years from the California Nebula. Also known as NGC 1499, the classic emission nebula is around 100 light-years long. On the featured image, the most prominent glow of the California Nebula is the red light characteristic of hydrogen atoms recombining with long lost electrons, stripped away (ionized) by energetic starlight. The...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Colorful Solar Corona over the Himalayas

    01/11/2016 1:45:56 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 25 replies
    NASA ^ | January 11, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What are those colorful rings around the Sun? A corona visible only to Earth observers in the right place at the right time. Rings like this will sometimes appear when the Sun or Moon is seen through thin clouds. The effect is created by the quantum mechanical diffraction of light around individual, similarly-sized water droplets in an intervening but mostly-transparent cloud. Since light of different colors has different wavelengths, each color diffracts differently. Solar Coronae are one of the few quantum color effects that can be easily seen with the unaided eye. This type of solar corona is a...
  • Researchers are Launching a Final, Desperate Effort to Contact Rosetta’s Dead Comet Lander

    01/10/2016 4:25:34 PM PST · by BenLurkin · 7 replies
    gizmodo.com ^ | 01/08/2016 | Ria Misra
    Researchers last got a signal from the Philae lander back in July, since then pinging it has resulted in no word from it—and i'’s all coming to a head now, says the ESA, because time is running out as the comet moves further and further away from the sun. With just a little time left, the plan is to try some off-label uses of Philae's momentum wheel. If the problem is that the lander is simply too dusty to power on, the hope is that spinning the wheel could clear off enough to let it wake itself up one last...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Sun Storm: A Coronal Mass Ejection

    01/10/2016 3:44:29 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 14 replies
    NASA ^ | January 10, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: What's happening to our Sun? Another Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)! The Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft has imaged many erupting filaments lifting off the active solar surface and blasting enormous bubbles of magnetic plasma into space. Direct light from the sun is blocked in the inner part of the featured image, taken in 2002, and replaced by a simultaneous image of the Sun in ultraviolet light. The field of view extends over two million kilometers from the solar surface. While hints of these explosive events, called coronal mass ejections or CMEs, were discovered by spacecraft in the early 70s, this dramatic...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300

    01/09/2016 1:41:47 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 11 replies
    NASA ^ | January 09, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Big, beautiful, barred spiral galaxy NGC 1300 lies some 70 million light-years away on the banks of the constellation Eridanus. This Hubble Space Telescope composite view of the gorgeous island universe is one of the largest Hubble images ever made of a complete galaxy. NGC 1300 spans over 100,000 light-years and the Hubble image reveals striking details of the galaxy's dominant central bar and majestic spiral arms. In fact, on close inspection the nucleus of this classic barred spiral itself shows a remarkable region of spiral structure about 3,000 light-years across. Like other spiral galaxies, including our own Milky...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Prometheus and the F Ring

    01/07/2016 10:03:46 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | January 08, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: In Greek myth Prometheus was a Titan, known for bringing fire from Mount Olympus. But in modern times the name is given to is a small moon of Saturn, orbiting just inside Saturn's F ring. In a complex interaction, the tiny potato-shaped moon interacts with the icy ring particles creating structures along the F ring still not fully understood. One of the highest resolution views of Prometheus, this image of its pocked surface posing with the thin F ring in the background was taken during the Cassini spacecraft's close approach on December 6, 2015. Prometheus is about 86 kilometers...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- High Energy Andromeda

    01/07/2016 12:52:47 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | January 07, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A mere 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy, also known as M31, really is just next door as large galaxies go. In this (inset) scan, image data from NASA's Nuclear Spectrosopic Telescope Array has yielded the best high-energy X-ray view yet of our large neighboring spiral, revealing some 40 extreme sources of X-rays, X-ray binary star systems that contain a black hole or neutron star orbiting a more normal stellar companion. In fact, larger Andromeda and our own Milky Way are the most massive members of the local galaxy group. Andromeda is close enough that NuSTAR can examine...
  • The mystery of the naked black hole

    01/06/2016 6:59:33 PM PST · by Utilizer · 38 replies
    AAAS Science ^ | 5 January 2016 2:45 pm | Daniel Clery
    KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA--Most, if not all, galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers surrounded by dense clouds of stars. Now, researchers have found one that seems to have lost almost its entire entourage. The team, which reported its find here today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, says it doesn't know what stripped the stars away. But it has put forward a tantalizing possibility: The object could be an extremely rare medium-sized black hole, which theorists have predicted but observers have never seen. The unusual black hole sits about 1 billion light-years from Earth in SDSS J1126+2944,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comets and Bright Star

    01/06/2016 12:14:43 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | January 06, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This timely, telescopic, two panel mosaic spans about 10 full moons across planet Earth's predawn skies. Recorded as the year began from Tenerife, Canary Islands, near the top of the frame are the faint coma and tail of Comet Borrelly (P/19). A comet with a seven year orbital period, Borrelly's nucleus was visited by the ion propelled spacecraft Deep Space 1 near the beginning of the 21st century. Anchoring the scene at the bottom is brilliant star Arcturus (Alpha Bootes) and Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) a first time visitor from the Oort Cloud. Catalina's yellowish dust tail extends below...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Lagoon Nebula in Hydrogen, Sulfur, and Oxygen

    01/05/2016 11:51:04 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 20 replies
    NASA ^ | April 05, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: The majestic Lagoon Nebula is filled with hot gas and the home for many young stars. Spanning 100 light years across while lying only about 5000 light years distant, the Lagoon Nebula is so big and bright that it can be seen without a telescope toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius). Many bright stars are visible from NGC 6530, an open cluster that formed in the nebula only several million years ago. The greater nebula, also known as M8 and NGC 6523, is named "Lagoon" for the band of dust seen to the right of the open cluster's...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Earthset from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

    01/03/2016 11:01:19 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | January 04, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On the Moon, the Earth never rises -- or sets. If you were to sit on the surface of the Moon, you would see the Earth just hang in the sky. This is because the Moon always keeps the same side toward the Earth. Curiously, the featured image does picture the Earth setting over a lunar edge. This was possible because the image was taken from a spacecraft orbiting the Moon - specifically the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). In fact, LRO orbits the Moon so fast that, from the spacecraft, the Earth appears to set anew about every two...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- A Starry Night of Iceland

    01/02/2016 9:46:13 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 13 replies
    NASA ^ | January 03, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: On some nights, the sky is the best show in town. On this night, the sky was not only the best show in town, but a composite image of the sky won an international competition for landscape astrophotography. The featured winning image was taken in 2011 over Jkulsrln, the largest glacial lake in Iceland. The photographer combined six exposures to capture not only two green auroral rings, but their reflections off the serene lake. Visible in the distant background sky is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy. A powerful coronal mass ejection from the...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Sky Lights in the New Year

    01/01/2016 9:47:14 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 7 replies
    NASA ^ | January 02, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: Triggered by the impact of a coronal mass ejection on New Year's eve, a moderate geomagnetic storm brought a celebration of sky lights to planet Earth's high latitudes yesterday. In this New Year's nightscape, the shimmering reddish curtains of aurora australis along a southern horizon are captured over Morgiana, SW Victoria, Australia. Of course, more permanent jewels of the southern skies are on the scene. The southern Milky Way, Alpha and Beta Centauri, and bright stars of the Southern Cross are on the left. In silhouette, branches of the large foreground tree stretch across the Milky Way's satellite galaxies,...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Comet Catalina Tails

    01/01/2016 10:28:53 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 5 replies
    NASA ^ | January 01, 2016 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A new year's treat for binoculars, as 2016 begins Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) now sweeps through planet Earth's predawn skies near bright Arcturus, alpha star of Bootes. But this telescopic mosaic from December 21 follows the pretty tails of the comet across a field of view as wide as 10 full moons. The smattering of distant galaxies and faint stars in the background are in the constellation Virgo. Trailing behind the comet's orbit, Catalina's dust tail fans out below and left in the frame. Its ion tail is angled toward the top right, away from the Sun and buffeted...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- Solstice Sun at Lulworth Cove

    01/01/2016 10:17:04 AM PST · by SunkenCiv · 15 replies
    NASA ^ | December 31, 2015 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: A southern exposure and striking symmetry made Lulworth Cove, along the Jurassic Coast of England, planet Earth a beautiful setting during December's Solstice. Five frames in this dramatic composite view follow the lowest arc of the Sun, from sunrise to sunset, during the shortest day of the year. The solstice arc spans about 103 degrees at this northern latitude. Of course, erosion by wave action has produced the cove's remarkable shape in the coastal limestone layers. The cove's narrow entrance is responsible, creating a circular wave diffraction pattern. The wave pattern is made clearer by the low solstice Sun....
  • Image: Hubble views two galaxies merging

    12/31/2015 2:16:08 PM PST · by Red Badger · 15 replies
    phys.org ^ | December 31, 2015 | Provided by: NASA
    Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This image, taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 6052, located around 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. It would be reasonable to think of this as a single abnormal galaxy, and it was originally classified as such. However, it is in fact a "new" galaxy in the process of forming. Two separate galaxies have been gradually drawn together, attracted by gravity, and have collided. We now see them merging into a single structure. As the merging...
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day -- The Fox Fur Nebula

    12/29/2015 11:49:52 PM PST · by SunkenCiv · 3 replies
    NASA ^ | December 30, 2015 | (see photo credit)
    Explanation: This interstellar canine is formed of cosmic dust and gas interacting with the energetic light and winds from hot young stars. The shape, visual texture, and color, combine to give the region the popular name Fox Fur Nebula. The characteristic blue glow on the left is dust reflecting light from the bright star S Mon, the bright star just below the top edge of the featured image. Textured red and black areas are a combination of the cosmic dust and reddish emission from ionized hydrogen gas. S Mon is part of a young open cluster of stars, NGC 2264,...